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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 15:06 GMT
Newborn babies to get extra test
Newborn baby
All newborn babies will be tested for the condition
All newborn babies in England are to be checked for a rare inherited condition, the government has said.

The test is for a metabolic disease called Medium Chain Acyl CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (MCADD).

It will be given within two weeks of birth as part of the heel-prick test, which already checks for conditions including sickle cell anaemia.

MCADD, caused by the lack of an enzyme which converts fat to energy, can be managed with simple treatment.

The test will be introduced over the next two years.

Simple treatment through dietary management will substantially reduce the risk of death and the risk of acute, serious illness
Dr Sheila Shribman, Children and maternity tsar

It affects between one in 10,000 and one in 20,000 babies born in the UK and screening is expected to identify around 28 cases a year in England.

If the disease is not picked up at an early stage, around a quarter of affected children will die from the condition, with one third of survivors sustaining significant neurological damage.

But once a baby has been diagnosed and given simple treatment, including a well-managed diet, the risk of acute, life-threatening episodes which require emergency or intensive care and even death is substantially reduced.

Quality of life

The test has already been piloted in some areas by the UK National Screening Committee.

Their final report will be available in 2008. But the Department of Health said there was already enough evidence and analysis available for the NSC to recommend screening be introduced now.

Announcing the extra check, health minister Ivan Lewis said: "I am delighted that all newborn babies will be screened for MCADD.

"Not only will the introduction of this screening programme save lives it will improve the quality of life for those children affected by this condition."

Dr Sheila Shribman, the children's and maternity tsar, added: "This is a very important screening programme and I fully support its implementation.

"Evidence shows that screening newborn babies for this condition will not only save lives but it can significantly improve their quality of life.

"Simple treatment through dietary management will substantially reduce the risk of death and the risk of acute, serious illness."


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